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Take A Bow, Gen-Xers, You, Too, Survived A Hazardous and Deprived Childhood

Updated on January 1, 2017
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You’ve probably seen those emails that make the rounds a few times a year that wax nostalgic about the things baby boomers didn’t have growing up; and how they managed to live to tell about it.

Well, I’m the father of two Gen-Xers and stepfather to two more, so I want to address their generation personally and sing their praises, and acknowledge to the world that they, too, are survivors.

I haven’t seen anything written about that, and I think it’s about high time that generation gets recognized for the stalwarts they are.

For openers, Gen-Xers, you were born in a hospital delivery room, not a birth center. Your first breath was taken under bright lights with many people attending. But Dad may not have been there to witness it.

In the early 70’s allowing Dads in the delivery room was just starting to be adopted by some hospitals. I was among the first wave of Dads allowed in the delivery room at our local hospital when my first son was born in 1972.

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Back then you and Mom spent a few days in the hospital. When Mom was sufficiently recovered from the ordeal and you weren't jaundiced, and were feeding satisfactorily, you were released to the world.

And, Gen Xers, do you know how you were transported home? Lying in Mom’s arms in the front seat of the car. Car seats weren’t around then. And guess what? Mom wasn’t seat-belted in, either. But don’t worry, she wasn’t breaking the law.

The law required auto manufacturers to equip vehicles with seat belts in 1968, but it didn’t require the vehicle occupants to use them…and no one did. It wasn’t compulsory until the 1980’s, when individual states started passing laws making seat belt use mandatory. And you survived!

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In fact, you spent your infancy sitting in Mom’s arms or on her lap. And she wasn’t belted in because she had to keep reaching into the diaper bag for the things and stuff you required in order to get you to stop screaming.

Oh yeah, diaper bags. See, we didn’t have disposable diapers when you were still loading your britches. We had cloth diapers and had to do a million loads of laundry a week to keep you in dry diapers.

When we unpinned your diaper (we still bear scars from being stuck by the pins and perhaps your thighs and hips do) we were hoping for a nice solid poop. Those just rolled off the diapers into the toilet and we threw the diaper into the soiled diaper pail until it was time to do another load in the washing machine.

But so many times you broke our hearts by putting out a soft, mushy poop that clung to the diaper like Velcro™. In those instances, we had to slosh the diaper up and down in the toilet bowl until all the poop came off. And with our bare hands, no less. E.coli? Who knew?

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You cut your teeth on the handles of shopping carts. Oh, we’d give you a teething ring or a piece of zwieback (Google it) to chew on, but you preferred the handle of the shopping cart. It was probably cool and felt good on your hurting gums.

Nowadays I see kids in shopping carts with what looks like a comforter draped over the handle, or at least some kind of cover so the occupant can't chew on the handle. That's a good idea, though. Why didn't we think of that?

You spent your toddler, youth and pre-teen years sitting, usually unbelted, in the back seat of the car.

If your folks had a station wagon (think of it as a primitive SUV) you got to ride in what we called the way back. Today it’s called the cargo area.

I can remember standing on the hump in the back seat, right under the dome light. The hump was to give things like drive shafts and exhaust pipes a place to go so they wouldn’t scrape the road.

If we hit a bump, I’d hit my head on the dome light and we’d all laugh about it. I considered myself a big boy when I no longer could stand on the hump without my head rubbing against the dome light.

WHAT...you mean you made your kids ride in shopping carts without handle covers???
WHAT...you mean you made your kids ride in shopping carts without handle covers??? | Source

When you got a little older, Gen-Xers, and it was time for a bicycle, you got one with training wheels until you developed your sense of balance. When the training wheels came off, we watched with a mix of pride and hilarity as you wobbled your way down the sidewalk.

You only used a couple of band-aids while you were learning, then you were on your own. And you faced the world on your two-wheeler without (gasp) a helmet or knee pads. You survived that period, too.

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About the time you were in middle school (Jr. High in some jurisdictions) rap music was just appearing on the scene.

It was a kinder, gentler rap, though. Not like the gangsta wrap of today.

I don't recall the early rap denigrating women or advocating violence against the police and others.

Star Wars was big and an exciting new technology was on the horizon: cable television.

The decade of the 80’s saw it arrive here in Massachusetts.

Personal computers were also just beginning to show up in households, although they didn’t really catch fire til the 90’s, when you were in college.

We got an Apple IIc in the early 80’s and we thought it was amazing.

I still remember the printer…clacking away at 10-15 words a minute…and how amazing we thought it was. Word processing was a dream-come-true.

So, here you were…graduating college without having had the benefit of smart phones, tablets and some of the other gadgets so popular today.

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Speaking of the gadgets popular today, you’re raising your own families now, complete with car seats, disposable diapers, bike helmets and knee pads. And I see your children sitting in the shopping carts (with the covers dutifully in place) while they thumb away on some hand held device that they, as a two-year old, know how to use but I, as a grandfather, don’t.

It truly is a brave new world out there. Congratulations, Gen-Xers. Well done.

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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great read! Really entertaining!

      It reminded me after my son was born and my husband was off in service and my mom bought me these dozens of cloth diapers and a bucket for soaking and one for rinsing and well I don't know I went for a few weeks of diaper mania until one day I was watching a pampers (or like) commercial and I thought to myself, "Hey girl, you have a credit card and you sure ain't spending nothing staying home taking care of this baby so you deserve some pampers!" I had to hear from everyone how bad they were but not in my book! Only if you left one on them all day or night and I could do real well trading off clothe diapers! A true story and I thank God for pampers every time I think to back then!

      ^+

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Jackie, nice to see you. Thanks for sharing your diaper story. I guess my article must be a bunch of crap because of the 5 "related hubs" above, 5 of them are about diapers, and the first comment to arrive is about...diapers. I guess I really hit a nerve there.

      You're right, though. The disposable diapers are so much easier. Changing my grand children's diapers is much easier...and no more pin pricks. Back in the day, we eventually did cave in and get a diaper service, though. Thanks for stopping by.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Bob! Whew, Gen X survived... as did us Boomers. Heck, I rode in the front seat of our station wagon and my seat belt/car seat was my dad reaching over to keep me from hitting the dashboard. But I broke through and our dashboard had my teeth marks in it forever. Survived that, too, and got a whole new set of adult teeth. :) Voted up and funny. Have a great weekend!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Great story, Heidi. I remember reaching over to keep my kids from hitting the dash, too. Fortunately we never had any mishaps, but I'll bet there were many that did, just as you did. Thanks for stopping by and voting.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I lived in Africa when my daughter was born and disposable diapers were so expensive that we only used them at night. Bob, I really miss that

      E. coli.

      Great hub. I laughed out loud, voted up and funny.

      I read this earlier and all of the related hubs were about diapers! Now they are about newborn babies and delivery rooms. Google, get this right.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Glad you liked the hub, Doc; thanks for the votes. Thanks also for the email about captioning. Good tip. I had captioned one of the pictures above...of the child in the shopping cart...but it probably wasn't a caption that Google would find because it was based on the child's expression and not the subject of the image. I'll have to change my approach to captioning. I also noted the change in related hubs. Now my reply to Jackie doesn't apply.

    • profile image

      Jill Moore 2 years ago

      I'm a gen-Xer and this made me laugh out loud. I remember my sister falling out of the boot (trunk!) of a car, as she and I rattled along in there because all the seats were taken.

      They do say that history repeats and, as a mother of new millennium babies (born 2002, 04, 08 and 10), I used cloth nappies (as we call them in the UK) because I'm a skinflint and they're cheaper across multiple butts and I'm moderately green! So, what goes around comes around, I guess.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Great contribution, Jill, thanks for stopping by. It seems that things across the pond are pretty similar to things here in the colonies. I'll bet the two senior millennials are a big help with the juniors! Hope to see you again.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      Boy, this all sounds so familiar!! I used cloth diapers for my kids. In fact, back then we could use a diaper service (if we could afford one). They would come, pick up the dirty ones, and leave nice clean ones. I had to wash and dry my own, and many times, the diapers froze on the clothes line.

      Voted this UP, etc. and shared.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We don't have kids but were definitely raised by parents using cloth diapers and in the days before seat belts in cars. No personal computers back then either. In fact black and white television was just coming into vogue when I was a child. Ha!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Oh, yes, I remember it all. And hanging the laundry on the clothesline using wooden clothes pins were the only way to dry our clothes. Thanks Bob for this nostalgic look back to a time when life was simple. Well, in some ways it was.

      Voted up and sharing.

      Audrey

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Mary...we had a clothes dryer, so we didn't experience the frozen diaper syndrome, but it sure was a lot of work, wasn't it? We splurged on a diaper service for the second child and it felt absolutely luxurious. When the van pulled up, we always hoped the neighbors would see it. Nice to have you stop by, thanks for the votes and share.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello Peggy, it sounds like we're about the same age. We were the first family in our immediate neighborhood to get a television. It was a TeleKing with a blonde wood cabinet. It had to be around 1954 or so and we were in awe of it, just like we were in awe of the Pong video game in the early 70's. It all seems so primitive now, doesn't it? Nice to have you stop by.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, vocalcoach...ah those wooden clothespins. I can still hear that little bass squeak they made when Mom slid them onto a piece of clothing. She never used the squeeze type of clothespin. And, oh, how we took for granted that wonderful smell that fresh-air drying brought to the clothes. Nice to have you drop by, Audrey, and thanks for the votes and share.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi Bob, My daughter was born in 1971 so I bought Pampers to use at night and was overjoyed with this new way. By the time I had my son there was not a cloth diaper in the house. Wonderful memories and a different world.Great Hub.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to see you, ladyguitarpicker, thanks for stopping by. My oldest was born in 72, he'll be 43 in a couple of weeks. They have some nerve, don't they, the little crumb grabbers, making their folks parents of children in their 40's? It's funny how just about everyone picked up on the diaper situation. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 months ago from sunny Florida

      Well done...had not really thought about this but you nailed it...much food for thought, Bob.

      Hope all is well with you and yours. Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 5 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks, Pat, nice to see you. I hope things are better for Heston...hugs, thoughts and pennies on the horizon.

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